Scientists discovered a fragment of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur tail (bones, tissue, feathers and all) preserved in amber. The amber sample had already been polished for jewelry when scientists discovered that it held a bigger treasure: the first dinosaur feathers preserved in amber. Researchers believe the tail came from a juvenile , a sparrow sized dinosaur.
Professor Mike Benton, Co-author of the study, published in , told the : "It's amazing to see all the details of a dinosaur tail - the bones, flesh, skin, and feathers - and to imagine how this little fellow got his tail caught in the resin, and then presumably died because he could not wrestle free."
The dinosaur sample captures eight vertebrae from the middle or end of a long, thin tail. Unlike prehistoric (and modern) birds, which have a set of fused tail vertebrae called a pygostyle, the dinosaur tail had articulated vertebrae. The dinosaur feathers also have a poorly-defined central shaft, which means the feathers were more likely to be ornamental than for flight. According to the researchers, if the entire length of this dinosaur tail was covered in the same type of feathers, the dinosaur “would likely have been incapable of flight.”
The amber sample was discovered in a mine in the Hukawng Valley in northern Myanmar, an area that likely contains a rich diversity of animal and plant life from the Cretaceous period, much of it preserved in amber. Large pieces of amber often get broken up and turned into jewelry after the mining process, but scientists continue to hope for discovering more complete specimen, perhaps some that show how feathers were arranged across an entire dinosaur body, or examine soft tissue features that usually don’t end up preserved.
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